From olive oil to oily fish, the Mediterranean diet is bursting with vibrant, healthy ingredients, but it’s important to keep an eye on serving sizes.
Below, we’ve suggested portion sizes, the calories in each and ways in which you can cut back.
Calories per 1tbsp (11g) serving = 100kcal
Its high antioxidant and monounsaturated fat content means olive oil is associated with improved heart health and maintaining healthy cholesterol levels. Get into the habit of spraying sparingly rather than drizzling generously, however, as all fats are high in calories.
Calories per 1 medium tomato/7 cherry tomatoes (80g) = 18kcal
Fresh, canned or sun-dried tomatoes all contain the antioxidant lycopene, which is associated with lower chronic disease risk. In fact, lycopene is more easily absorbed by the body when tomatoes are heated during canning or cooking.
Calories per 1 handful (80g) = 59kcal
Not just for nibbling on, grapes are great in savoury dishes such as salads. Darker skinned varieties are far richer in phytochemicals – the particular combination found in whole grapes has been linked to reduced inflammation and lowering blood pressure in some people
Calories per 1 handful (80g) = 98kcal
Vegetables are core to the Med diet, and globe artichokes are a particularly rich source of inulin, a prebiotic fibre that is beneficial for your microbiome (the bacteria in our gut). To avoid any fiddly prep, look for chilled packs of ready prepared artichokes at supermarkets.
Calories per 2 grilled sardines (140g)=240kcal
One of our two recommended weekly portions of fish should be oily as they’re a great source of heart-healthy omega-3 fats. Best sources are sardines, mackerel and salmon. Anchovies count, too, but stick to small quantities as they can be high in salt.
Calories per 3–4 slices (30g) = 103kcal
The Med diet isn’t meat-heavy, but small amounts of cured meats are often used in tapas and sharing plates. Parma ham, for instance, makes a good pizza topping, but think in small portions to keep salt down and count it towards your recommended 500g weekly limit for red or processed meats.
Calories per 1 and a half ice-cream scoops = 89kcal
Lentils feature in salads, soups and stews throughout the Med. They’re full of soluble fibre, which is good for slow-release energy, and have a cholesterol lowering effect. Puy lentils are a good all- rounder as they hold their shape well during cooking.
Beans & legumes
Calories per 1⁄2 can drained chickpeas (110g) = 135kcal
Beans and legumes are good sources of protein and fibre to help keep you feeling full and balance blood sugar, and are a cheap and easy way to bulk out dishes to replace meat. They can be the star of the show, too (in hummus, for example).
Calories per 1 handful almonds (30g) = 184kcal
Nuts are nutritionally dense – just 30g almonds, for example, contain 60% of the RDA for vitamin E (linked to more robust immunity in older people). They’re high in healthy monounsaturated fats, but stick to recommended portions as this makes them high in calories.
Calories per 1 ice-cream scoop (60g) = 32kcal
Olives are also full of healthy monounsaturated fat. They make a fantastic light snack, or use them to add extra flavour to salads and stews – but, again, stick to our portion guide as eating too many will take you over your daily 6g salt limit.